Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday August 1, 2012
Did You Notice?… How so many people in NASCAR are living on a prayer? Too bad even Jon Bon Jovi would know better than to believe Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is on the verge of “reviving” the sport. I know what you’re saying… who am I to shoot the messengers? After all, in the past 72 hours Earnhardt has been revered for his ability to rise for the top of the point standings for the first time in eight years; that, his win at Michigan and a rumored ability to walk on water on the way has made him a demigod during a week there hasn’t been much to write about.
But speculation, in this case can be replaced by simple fact, one quotation that more than any other explains why the 2012 version of Junior will never be the “national racing savior” for millions of disillusioned fans he once was on the verge of becoming. The words were a simple answer, really, to a question as innocent as “How do you feel about your teammate (Jimmie Johnson) winning the race?”
“Awesome,” said Earnhardt, Jr. “We would actually rather us two to fight for the championship at the end knowing one of us is going to get it for the company.”
Stop right there; digest, knowing “the company” is the largest organization in Cup Series history, Hendrick Motorsports. Now envision the man he’s named after. Dale Earnhardt, Sr., the Intimidator, the man who shoved your rear bumper out of the way en route to roaring into Victory Lane by any means possible. A man who resisted the multi-car format, ultimately capitulating in 1996 when owner Richard Childress saw the writing on the wall but struggled in many instances to embrace fellow driver Mike Skinner during his tenure. Can you imagine him taking a deep breath, getting settled after a fourth-place finish and saying “I’m excited regardless of who wins the championship… if we keep it in the company? I’m happy to be a part of it.”
While you’re at it, let’s picture Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, any famous athlete in any other sport. Heck, let’s envision Tony Stewart as recently as seven years ago. How many of them would walk off the court, turn towards a reporter’s mic and go, “I’m just proud to get this win for the company?” Here’s who I would expect that quote from; my best friend in technology, working in an office cubicle and on the verge of receiving the Employee of the Month Award for bringing donuts in every Friday. Or, maybe have that line be the butt of the joke on NBC’s The Office after some absurd competition.
Now imagine how the fans of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. would have felt about that. People don’t turn on the auto racing channel for sitcom plots or situations that resemble their own 9 to 5. They want to be wowed by on-track competition, connected to the sport through unique personalities they can relate to in a way that resembles a beautiful dream — not their boss. How does NASCAR’s typical, blue-collar fan connect to someone who refers to his organization as a white-collar “company?” How do 16-year-olds that once revered Earnhardt, Jr. on MTV Cribs connect to a 37-year-old whose statements now make him sound like he should be a clean-cut southern executive, working in the business banks of downtown Charlotte with a shirt and tie?
What everyone forgets, with the resurgence of Earnhardt, Jr. are the choices he made all those years ago, throwing away a marriage under the family name for a partnership with NASCAR’s version of the New York Yankees. The man was already different from his father, preferring to not to use the bumper but his brain in winning many races through what some might call the righteous, “Mark Martin” way of strategy and perseverance. That’s fine. But the second he signed on the dotted line, Earnhardt took things a step further, branching out from his dad in choosing the ultimate racing corporate culture over any possible alternative. Dale Sr. was about every man for himself; Earnhardt, Jr. chose 400 people and four teams working together as one. Dale, Sr. was about saying whatever came to mind; Dale, Jr. still has that, can’t turn those genetics off but it’s mixed in with making sure to say the right thing in between. Hendrick’s training has worked like a charm.
So that choice, despite the famous name makes him no more endearing to the next generation of fans as the politically correct version of Jimmie Johnson. Some of those have never forgotten; for proof, you can’t look here, because they’re not reading this column and have left the sport for other hobbies long ago. Yes, Earnhardt will always have the die-hards, those fans who have cheered for his success thick and thin. That tight-knit group will always dominate the popular voting, in a way Bill Elliott always won that award even in years when the on-track performance was rendered insignificant. But in many ways, Earnhardt, Jr. at this point has made himself just a cog in the wheel; heck, he’s not even the winningest driver in his own race shop, trailing Johnson despite being on top of the standings.
Back in the 1990s, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. had a rivalry on-track with Jeff Gordon that was as fierce as any. He respected, even befriended the man but when it came to that team’s philosophy? The Intimidator would have spit on a Hendrick Motorsports contract and ripped it to shreds no matter the money. His son chose a different path, a virtual lifetime deal and while that bought him financial security most will only dream of, some will feel a part of his soul was sold once the handshake was made.
Winning a championship, even contending for one doesn’t change a shift in cultural perception. Earnhardt made the choice… and he can’t go back.
Did You Notice?… NASCAR battling some more national criticism on its lack of minorities driving at the sport’s top level? This segment, which aired on ESPN’s Outside The Lines before the start of Sunday’s Brickyard 400 accuses the Drive For Diversity program of being “ceremonial” and has critics going so far as to claim NASCAR is going so far as “intentionally” avoiding setting up potential connections between Fortune 500 companies that back them and minority talent.
After years of investigating this issue, I think some of the conclusions are, at best a bit of a reach. It’s also untrue no Drive For Diversity candidate has ever run full-time in any of NASCAR’s top three series; right now, Paulie Harraka (an FS Diary Driver in 2012) is busy doing just that as a rookie in Camping World Trucks. But what is factual is, nine years into the sport’s program tailored to provide opportunities to minorities the number of Sprint Cup drivers it’s produced is zero. There are all sorts of theories behind it, from more time needed to not enough talent to an inability of the organization to connect to the power players at NASCAR’s top three levels.
I think one of the biggest problems, with the reissue revisited on a national scale is a lack of new ownership. Time and time again, that’s been listed as an issue with Cup Series start-and-parks now approaching ten each race within a 43-car field. And of the 33 cars that do have money, they’re owned by just a handful of people whose teams are often accompanied by that hotel sign weary travelers don’t want to see: “No vacancy.” For example, Joe Gibbs, once the supporter for one of the sport’s most successful minority drivers in Marc Davis may very well expand to four teams in 2013. If he does that, with each of them (Hamlin, Busch, Logano and Kenseth) signed to long-term contracts why would he be in the market for developing minority talent? His Cup program is maxed out; the roster behind the wheel is secure. Developing Davis, in Gibbs’ mind is unnecessary in the grand scheme of making his team successful.
No, minority drivers need new owners that can find the funding and have the focus to bring those talents along. The benefits, potentially tapping into millions of Americans who have never so much as heard of the sport are strong. And with a vacuum in the industry right now, so many fans disillusioned with racing and wondering where to turn with their loyalty the right, charismatic choices create an opportunity for when the breakthrough does come. At some point, there’s going to be a Tiger Woods of racing, a “Danica-like” personality capable of such magnetism; and someone, in some series in America is going to discover them and have the money to succeed. The longer NASCAR takes to get its act together here, the greater risk it runs to lose out to IndyCar on this type of natural evolution for a second time.
Did You Notice?… Quick hits before we take off:
- NASCAR says ratings for the Brickyard, off 17 percent from a year ago were “expected” to be down due to NBC’s Olympic coverage from London. That’s slightly worse than what happened in 2008, though; two of the three races suffered drops of 14 percent, respectively while Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt dominated the sports headlines. What’s worse is after the games were over, viewership struggled to return, with only the Homestead season finale reaching the coveted 4.0 mark in the Nielsens. What does that mean? The true damage of London could is looking worse, not better, and long-term effects can’t be truly measured until the Michigan race in mid-August.
- Some have expressed surprise at Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya getting virtual rubber-stamp re-signings over at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (both are in negotiations for long-term deals). Considering the way McMurray especially has performed, you do have to scratch your head a bit with drivers like Joey Logano, Brian Vickers and even Kurt Busch available. And how much longer do we give the mediocre NASCAR resume of Montoya, one of the most successful drivers to ever grace the sport of open-wheel racing before we say “Stock cars just aren’t working out?”
- Who says you can’t have a good title race in the Nationwide Series? All you need to do is kick out the Cup regulars, not use the Chase and blow a restart call to make sure it’s a nail-biter. Whoops! Did I speak out of turn?
- To NASCAR’s credit: the plan to wipe out the top 35 after the season, which I hear is gaining steam will be the right call. They’ve finally realized there needs to be incentive and/or an easy opening for new owners and funding to join the sport; moreover, in the long-term I also wonder if the change will one day inadvertently solve the start-and-park problem. Can you imagine if some of the S&Pers qualify strong at Talladega while a Ryan Newman, let’s say, blows an engine and fails to make it? You’re leaving a superstar at home so someone can park it after 10 laps? I guarantee you it would take 48 hours for a solution to magically appear.
- Sam Hornish, Jr. went a long way towards securing a future with the No. 22 Dodge after a 16th-place finish at Indianapolis. But until there’s a top-5 result, something that reminds you this team made the Chase less than a year ago don’t think he’s got this ride in the bag. Shell / Pennzoil is accustomed to success, and as mentioned above in the EGR case there’s other options available. Penske would be silly, especially with possible other sponsorship for Sam not to give a few of those other candidates an audition.
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I think you have found Felipe Massa’s replacement! Dale Jr. would make a wonderful #2 driver for Fernando Alonso. At Ferrari it is all about the Scuderia and not the driver.
As for minorities in the sport, I think of Darrel Wallace Jr. and Kyle Larson will be in Cup once this old generation slowly (finally?) goes away. Cup really needs some new blood. You cannot just put a guy in a car if he can’t get the job done.
Ganassi’s problem is not the driver. Look at the standings and look at the results and they are always next to each other. Unless the equally suck, which I do not think they do, you have to say it’s the car. Or maybe the engine? Who shares the ECR engine shop with them? Richard Childress racing has been terrible too this year. About the only driver who is overachieving is Paul Menard. Burton has been terrible and Harvick has not been his normal self. Harvick will make the chase, but he won’t contend for the championship which is something he ought to be doing. Of the five drivers who use that engine, Harvick is the most talented so he should be ahead of the other four. Something seems off with that ECR engine.
Montoya hasn’t lit the world on fire but I don’t think you could say his stock car career was a failure. Three wins, two in Cup, and a Chase is far from failing. However, Ganassi does have a wonderful program for aging drivers. Scott Pruett cannot drive forever. In a couple years, Kyle Larson will be ready (especially if testing comes back) and Montoya can wreak some havoc with Memo Rojas in the 01 Telmex car.
The record indicated that Earnhardt, Sr., first fought and then reluctantly accepted the multi-car team. Yet, when Earnhardt began his own Cup operation, it quickly morphed into a multi-car team. Your probably right that Earnhardt the driver would never subordinate himself to the success of the organization over his own success as a driver. Yet, my guess is that Earnhardt the car owner would be fighting tooth and nail to make his racing organization every bit as successful as Rick Hendrick. He would insist that his drivers work together for the success of the organization.
No, Earnhardt Jr. is not the answer to NA$CAR’s problems. His resurgence (albeit kind of like the last sparkle from one of the cheap fireworks fountains) is not what is going to save NA$CAR. For you see, NA$CARs problem, is, well…NA$CAR!
Think about it this way; if you had the best-damn-whiz-banger on the market, something everyone was clamoring to get a piece of, be a part of, devote tons of money and time to. And then, you decide that it needed to be changed…you know add a whatsamajigger here and toss out a couple do-dads here and there, and oh by the way, stick a WTF-is-this on the end of it, and then tell your customer is “new and improved.” And then WHAMO – they not only walk away, the fly out of the stands in droves.
What would you do – #1 keep the same “new and improved” version – or – # 2 listen to your customers and sit down and figure out how to fix it? Well, if you are NA$CAR you pick #1….screw the customer they don’t know what they want.
Earnhardt Jr. rising to the top of the points standings is not going to fix the cause of NA$CAR whoas. Fixing things like lost races and race tracks, ridiculous point schemes, inconsistence rules, da da, da…listening to the customer might be a good place to start. NO, I MEAN REALLY LISTENING TO YOUR CUSTOMER.
Only wish NA$CAR could see that before it is way too late.
I agree with Steve K that the problem at EGR is not the drivers. When it comes to building competitive race cars, EGR has fallen behind the curve, and whether recently announced changes will make a difference down the road is anybody’s guess.
Ok…you opened the door..now I guess I’ll stick my neck through and probably get it whacked off! Junior is having a great season! By gosh he got his 2nd win in six years..what..five races ago? Let’s see…pretty swell equipment..choice of crew chiefs (don’t have the 48 tattooed on your arm Chad) highest money earner…most fans! Hmmmm ..perfect driver..except…he’s not! I’m not a Junior hater folks…but numbers don’t lie…he’s not his daddy, or Gordon, or Johnson, or Stewart or Edwards or Martin or even Kayne…he’s a good, middle of the road, driver. And let me say there’s nothing wrong with that! He’s having a great season…but shouldn’t he? It’s odd to me he’s getting all these accolades for doing what he’s expected to do! Can he win a championship? Well, there’s always that possibility…but saying he would like JJ..or any of his team mates to take the
C’mon Tom grow some big ones and write an article about what relly happened with the Indy nationwide restart fiasco, you are the man to do it, so far Jimmy Spencer is the only person that has brought up the fact that bad Brad tries to hink restarts all the time with either the nail it slow down, or the brakecheck and Nascar lets him get by with it .
I agree with most of the article. I have been saying Jr. is too good sometimes. Oh, he doesn’t have to be like his dad but sometimes you need to rub some paint and get close to someones bumper and loosen them up. But, if it comes down to the last race and the championship comes down to Jimmy and Jr., then Jr. better be ready to loosen him up or rub paint with him if it comes down to that. And no, I’m not talking about wrecking no one I’m just talking about racing so hard to win you may rub someone in a turn trying to out run them. After all, this is racing and being too nice is fine for being liked in the pits but it can cost you a championship or two if you let it. Heck, even Gordon and Johnson and bumped a little going for wins and sometimes you have to or else you lose.
I too am glad the top 35 rule is going away. I wonder if it embarrasses brian france that Terry Labonte is 43rd in points? He’s ran what, 3 races?
Regarding the diversity program, why is diversity successful in the NHRA but not nascar? Maybe because the NHRA never had a diversity program, that I know of?
I feel sorry for Jr having all that pressure on him once again. Stay strong Jr.
@MJR, I just loved your post.
First driver to win a NASCAR race for Hendrick Motorsports: Dale Earnhardt Sr. Busch Grand National race.
Glenn, thats awesome! BA-Bing!
If you can’t say something good about a driver. best not to open your mouth an show how dumb you are! guess who this is aimed at!
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